FORGET about the year-long celebrations. For Eddie Brennan, the most special time after winning an All-Ireland is in those minutes when a team charges back into their dressing-room with the trophy in hand.
“It’s just a magical feeling,” he said. “Sometimes you forget it because you have such a good time after you win an All-Ireland. It’s just unbelievable; once that final whistle goes and you’re in the dressing-room with the lads, you can’t buy that. It’s just magical, be it for the half hour after the game. After that you begin to look forward to the next few days.”
Brennan’s inclusion in the starting team may have raised a few eyebrows, but the speedy attacker saw his chance and was determined to take it. Age may make a player wiser, but it hadn’t dulled his hunger.
“It’s not about personal gain over someone else, but the hardest place to be is above in the stand,” he said. “You’re mad to get into the game.
“I’ve experienced the other side of the coin for along, long time,” Brennan added. “The team is what it’s all about and this team is evolving the whole time. Look at Colin Fennelly, who came in this year – he was sensational.
“I was just delighted to get the opportunity,” he added. “It was great to get in there and contribute. As we say it’s never about any individual or any one player – it’s the team and the panel all the way. It’s great to get in, do your bit and be a cog in the wheel.”
While the last three years have seen some intense games between Kilkenny and Tipp Brennan, now a proud owner of eight All-Ireland medals, knows that as time marches on you have to cherish each big day when it comes.
“We have always said that each final is special,” he said. “People often speak about the Cork final in 2006 as being an unbelievable game but as the years go on when you see the window start to close up a little you treasure them all.
“I’ll be 33 in a few weeks and that window is closing,” he continued. “For me, it’s incredible to experience that winning feeling again, to be able to do that with lads who you have soldiered with, guys you have trained with three and four nights a week.
“The tension there, especially in the last ten minutes, was so great,” Brennan added. “I was in the stands at that stage but I was looking down, praying that we could keep four points clear.
“Somebody said after the game that the scoreline doesn’t do justice to how dominant we were, but that’s irrelevant – half a point is all we wanted today, and once we got it that’s what it was all about.
“To get that result was great,” he continued. “Now that final rounds off the little series we’ve had with Tipp over the last three years.”
For someone who has been part of a Kilkenny side that has contested 10 of the last 12 finals Brennan has experienced plenty of highs and lows. However, the Graigue-Ballycallan man ranks the 2011 decider highly – not just for the intensity, but for the manner in which Kilkenny regained their winners tag.
“This final is right up there with the 2006 decider,” he said. “To bounce back from defeats like we did after losing in 2004 (final) and 2005 (semi-final) was something special. A lot of the group here had been written off, just like there were some huge question marks over us in 2006 too, but that’s what it’s all about – you win them and move on. To be down and bounce back shows that you have been able to pick yourself up, rise to the challenge again and get back to the top.
“That’s the most satisfying part of it, to be able to say ‘you know what, we did it’” he added. “That’s it in a nutshell.”